I won’t lie. The cover caught my attention on this one. Because there’s nothing cuter than a baby playing with pistols.
I figured it was going to be some kind of punk or metal record, but it’s pretty far from that. Dangerous Games is pure, unadulterated 80s (1983) synth pop. It’s like Blondie meets Lou Champagne System, at least on the songs featuring Vicki Zollo on the microphone. This is classic early synth music – sometimes weird (“Bensonhurst”), sometimes sterile (“Television Generation”), sometimes poppy as hell (“Come To Me”). Pretty much any song on here would be at home in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.
Richard Termini might be best known for his work with Patti Smyth and Cyndi Lauper. In fact, I thought there was some odd mistake when I realized the inner sleeve holding the record was actually for Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, but now I’m not so sure. Termini played synths on that album (his name’s right here on the sleeve!), and both records came out in 1983. Coincidence that my copy just happens to have an inner sleeve for a Cyndi Lauper album that Termini just happened to play on? I don’t know.
But back to Dangerous Games. This is a pretty cool record if you’re down with that early 80s sort of very deliberate synthesizers – playing as either short, distinct, sharp notes or very long held notes, sounding more like an electronic machine than an instrument. Side B does kick it up a notch and it feels like there’s more guitar work and traditional song structure on songs like “Modern Science.” Termini is at his best when he has Zollo along for the ride – she’s got that classic, urgent pop style of voice that fits perfectly with the sometimes almost sterile sound of the synths, like she’s trapped inside the music and desperately trying to get out.
Dangerous Games is certainly a bit dated, and perhaps a little uneven, but I chalk that up as much to the experimental nature of what Termini is doing as opposed to something else. His talent is obvious. If you’re down with the whole 80s synth scene, it’s definitely worth a listen.
UPDATE (Feb. 19, 2015) –> So I got an email today… from Richard Termini! Which is, of course, incredibly cool. Richard also let me in on a little something that puts Dangerous Games into perspective – while the album came out in 1983, some of it was actually stuff Termini wrote in the 1970s. So while it sort of sounded a bit retro, even taking into account it was from 1983, really it was probably ahead of its time. And the guitar player on the record was John Campos, later of Fallout… who were produced by who else but Richard Termini!